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This could have been a real disaster, and even though the movie triggered a couple of cringes, it wasn't the expected trainwreck. "Derrida" was not too much of a waste. Thinking is a very difficult subject for a documentary. When filmmakers decide they want to present a great thinker, they are presented with a difficult decision: should they make a straightforward documentary concerned only with transmitting knowledge, or should they use the form to reflect the content of the thinker's work? Is accessiblity the goal of a documentary? And how much can we dilute for accessiblity's sake? I think this is one of the few cases where striking a balance between a dichotomy doesn't work. In "Derrida" the directors were trying to experiment with form and create a new audience for Derrida's work. They wanted to document Derrida's thinking. They wanted to archive the man's presense and present Derrida to a new audience. However, they felt that using the standard documentary/biography format would make Derrida's work superficially accessible. They didn't want to commit such an insult. Yet, they were not willing to alienate the audience. Thus, "Derrida" only registers as a lukewarm essay. The directors took an approach that is sold on today's market as "Self-reflexivity, the dummy's guide to artsy." "Derrida" is a series of vignettes where Derrida explains his relationship to the camera and the process by which his presence is recorded. It is a total exercise in metadiscourse, and unfortunately, this theme provides plenty of stupid irritating gimmicks with which "Derrida" proves not your standard documentary but your undergraduate film school festival The rewarding aspects of this film are not the formal experiments or anything relating to the fact that Derrida is presented as a moving image, but rather watching Derrida speak about the camera, the archive or the image. There are some excellent shots of Derrida at work. We witness his careful footwork in the field of discourse, and the director chooses the very potent passages to outline Derrida's duties as performer for no one and the role of the filmmaker in using Derrida's words to present her story. However, the director tells no story. The film offers very little beyond problematizing the roles of the actors in this production of "Derrida." And, I think what was presented would be best preserved in an essay than the series of vignettes called "Derrida."
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